Images between Art and Nature


A systematic survey of the collection of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts has been underway for more than two decades, in parallel with research on the history of that institution. Several exhibitions on the subject have been staged, and a number of volumes published, most of which are accessible online.

1. Nineteenth-century Photography in the 21st Century

Most of the collection involves photographers by profession, studio photographers whose work was largely ignored by photographic historians in the 20th century. Even Vilém Flusser classified the photograph as a “flyer-image” whose meaning dissipates on its surface. It is an engaging coincidence that Flusser’s Towards a Philosophy of Photography appeared in the same year that Sony announced its first electronic camera, the Mavica. Flusser was right, of course, in that the 19th century only needed photographs so long as the cutter needed it to make a reproducible block, then the printer to arrange a printable plate. After that, it could be tossed out like a flyer, having lost its function. Then, a soon as the photograph loses its substance under the dictatorship of digital image making, a sea change comes over everything. Suddenly the mass of images prepared by 19th century masters became collectible and saleable as artwork, while their makers became creators – once again. And again it becomes obvious that every image is unique and irreproducible and – lest we forget Walter Benjamin – has its own aura. The substance below the surface now becomes visible, as it were. This is a major turn.

There was a period in photographic historiography where these studio “photo-specialists” were decisively disparaged; ultimately, the view went, the amateur photographer, uninhibited by the details of their medium, would liberate this means of expression from its bonds. There is a certain truth in this of course (there is no reason to be unfair to our colleagues), yet today it is more important for us to note that they might have seen this easily understandable turning point in the medium in this way because they lacked access to this significant and extensive body of commercial studio work; discourse focused exclusively on a few thousand recycled examples. Ultimately the Leica and silver nitrate would push the techniques, and images, of the first 70 years out of the public consciousness. A great number of 19th-century photographs were indeed scarcely to be seen, lying deep in the archives, unorganized and uncatalogued. There were advantages of this from a conservational standpoint, but of course this impeded the cultural appropriation – a precise if inelegant term for the changes that began some 15 to 20 years ago – that would follow from the wider exposure these images initially failed to enjoy. It was the Internet that greatly liberated these pictures, together with the need to discover unknown, unexplored areas; the study of the medium’s origins revealed that we were far from knowing everything about it, and were unaware of the path that led to today’s information culture. Here the paradigm change that photography brought is absolutely critical: it presents the first technical image, the primary ontological exemplum, the Ur-cause (or primal sin). At the same time, the latest, 21st century transformation in photography have brought these images to the fore, given that widespread digital image making, so easy and so explosively diffused, means the disappearance of analogue technologies and the migration of 19th-century photographs from common archival evidence to the status of works of art with considerable historical and commercial value.

2. The Collection and the Exhibition

The visitor may have two obvious questions: How did these pictures end up in the collection, and what were these photographs used for? The short answer is simple: by various paths, including purchase, collection, donations, bequeathals, and commissions. In other words, by looking at them. The more complex answer would require its own monograph. It is certain that one former professor at the school, Gusztáv Morelli, photographed actively. Another professor, Bertalan Székely, involved himself with theoretical issues, publishing essays (or more precisely polemics) on photography in his younger years, and later exchanged letters with Étienne-Jules Marey on his studies of motion. Another professor, Adolf Huszár, certainly purchased and collected photographs, and his collection is represented in the archives by some 400 images. Some instructors, like Ede Balló and von Gloeden appear in the archives as the fruits of occasional travels, and even Gusztáv Keleti on his tour of Europe may have purchased photographs that he sent to József Eötvös so that he might study the fine arts academies of the continent. The word “photograph” generally appears in two contexts in university course catalogues. It is a recurrent motif in course descriptions: “Chalcographic and photographic reproductions of architectural monuments, drawing plans in the applied arts, sculpture, and significant compositions of old and new masters (merely for the purpose of study, not for copying).” This somewhat contradicts the term’s appearance in another context, the description of a course in Ornamentics (later, Drawings in the Applied Arts): “Ornamented Drawing and Painting, specifically the drawing of model ornamentation in both two and three dimensions, with particular attention to development of visual and manual skills (exercises in reproduction drawing) and simpler methods of production more easily managed. Also, comprehensive sketching of the institution’s plaster castings, photographs, engravings, and the library collection’s model ornamentational motifs.” The establishment of the first photo laboratory at the college occurred outside our current period: “… beginning with the next academic year, the Graphics Department will have its appropriate facilities, with a well lit studio space, a separate well ventilated training room, with presses located in their own space. Furthermore, it will have an appropriate room – a darkroom – for developing photographs.” (Catalogue of 1907-8, pp. 36-7, emphasis by the author).

In our selection, we have tried to give an overview of the entire collection and its aspects, primarily with the aid of photographs that have never been shown in the past. As a result of intervening research, a number of photographs which have been exhibited in the past as well as in the current show have received attributions different from previously, and the list of of photographers whose work is contained in the collection has been substantially supplemented based on more recent determinations. A few larger groupings shown in previous exhibitions do not appear in the current one, or do so only in passing. Among these, for example, are the movement studies of Bertalan Székely and materials associated with them, photographs of the military hospital in 1914, Kornél Divald’s album The High Tatra, Antal Weinwurm’s photos in the album of the school at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, and others.

We have organized the exhibition into more general thematic sections, whose titles allow almost any image to appear in almost any group. These are

Tanulmányok természet után – Études d’après nature – Studien nach der Natur / Studies after Nature

Világfalu – The Global Village

Fotográfusok – Művészet és fényképészet / Photographers Art and Photography

Until the advent of photography we never saw an image that did not bear the handprint of human creation, nothing that was made through the experimental application and repetition of machine and physical/chemical interaction. Optical phenomena such as reflection, shadow, imprints, the camera obscura, heat waves, accidental rock- and cloud-forms – all these might have offered analogies towards understanding, but here the differences are at least as pronounced as the similarities. In photography’s early stages, those familiar with its techniques made efforts to explain to a wider audience the fundamental differences between these new images and traditional ones. Fox Talbot’s 1844 The Pencil of Nature offers a publisher’s note: The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation. As Fox Talbot himself puts it, “They are impressed by Nature’s hand.”

The subtitle Studies after Nature is partly the result of a later extension of the above approach. The authors often use captions to call attention to the innovations involved, communicating that we are not looking at a drawing or print but at an image taken directly from nature – practically reality itself. The expression “after nature” refers specifically to the photograph and its mode of creation, whether its subject be city, landscape, flowers, or nude. The essence is the unmediated, shared presence of the subject and its optical record in the photograph. Another meaning of the phrase involves not this didactic enterprise but rather the fact that the creators – themselves often visual artists to begin with – saw the photograph as a useful substitute for the direct observation of nature that had served as the artist’s secret weapon since the Renaissance, irrespective of what earlier periods might have understood by the term “nature.” The 19th century is teeming with modes of rationalization of this “nature-magic,” their interpretation, and even their invention (involving not merely the concepts of realism and naturalism as applied to art, but even to Darwin and Edison).

Beyond the obvious shortcomings of the new image (it is colorless, unmoving, and shows only one perspective) there are considerable advantages offered by optical precision and a richness of detail never before experienced. Even the lack of movement can be an advantage, inspiring long attention, and not in itself restricting the time devoted to observation. To draw, model, or paint “after nature” occurs in any case almost after nature, since the photograph itself exists in this mode.

The expression The Global Village became fashionable after McLuhan, but in fact the optical sense of globalization was given easy access by the traveling photographers of the 19th century through their pictures from all parts of the world, distributed internationally. The photographs of Bonfils, Fiorillo, Sommer Eckert, Krieger, Naya, and Wlha from the second half of the 19th century show people and places both within Europe and without. The apex is probably the stereoscopic series produced by the firm of Underwood and Underwood. Here the photographic recording of the most diverse places, people, occupations, and distinctive subjects, published in many topical series, has become a new conception in itself.

The question was frequently asked in the 19th century whether photography was an art form at all, whether the photographs they were seeing should be received as works of art; today, by contrast, even the photographic reproduction of another work of art in the age of digital image manipulation is (or should be) a work of art in itself. Photographic reproduction shows us an individual work of art with a precision never previously seen. If we place side by side an engraving and a photograph of the same painting or sculpture, the difference is immediately apparent. Since the reproduction of a work transmits a new precision and detail in its view of the original – removed from its physical location and reproduced as a viewable image – the result is little imaginary museums in the form of institutional or private collections, such as the collection of the sculptor Adolf Huszár in the collection of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts.

The photograph is a model in this sense as well, standing both behind the artwork and in front of it, while being an artwork in its own right. It can inspire a sculptor or painter as it becomes a model for its viewer, aiding the conception or allusion of its recorded original – perhaps even by virtue of its own qualities independent of its subject.

3. New Works and Contemporary Reflections

The exhibit is aiming not at some sort of historicization or meditative reverence of remnants of the past that, though lent a nobility and respect by time, are remnants that have become uninteresting and have long lost any currency. But we should see that the concrete manifestation of a lost past, setting the light-print of that age into a modern illumination, reflects on our current existence. Given a modicum of attention, nearly every image can be tied to the facts of our everyday life even, occasionally, to the news of the day. Statues of Eötvös and Petőfi stand in our public spaces, accessible to view, while the first photographs, made at the time of their dedication, may be taken as a challenge to compare statuary practices then and now. Images of Syria, Athens, and Jerusalem, and the people arriving among them, can relocate today’s blog entries on mass migration over centuries, even millennia. To reinforce this goal, nearly a year ago while preparing the conception of this show, , we involved students in the doctoral program at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts on the basis of several successful projects in this vein. These students were oriented and given access to the whole of the collection to work up any detail or group of works as their interest and personal approach led them, without any prescriptions as to form. This research can, in every case, lead to fresh and new, even unexpected results that will leave their imprint on the project as a whole. Ultimately eight works were chosen, which will be on exhibit at various locations within the show, each in the vicinity of the photograph(s) that inspired them, or served as their direct subject.

New works:

These are complemented by a new image from Ádám Albert, part of a series now in preparation. We have joined this to the Huszár collection, and also take it as a sign that further surveys and presentations of the University’s collections might continue with the rich teaching materials kept in the Department of Artistic Anatomy, Drawing, and Geometry.


The following publications have assisted us in preparing the exhibition:

Comar, Philippe, Figures du corps. Une Leçon d’Anatomie à l’École des Beaux-Arts. Paris: ENSBA, 2008.

de Font-Réaulx, Dominique – Bolloch, Joëlle, The work of art and its reproduction. Paris: Musée d'Orsay, 2006.

Gámiz Gordo, Antonio –Muńoz Rodríguez, Antonio, J. Laurent's Photographs of Vejer (1867 & 1879): A Critical Study. Sociedad Vejeriega de Amigos del País, 2008.

Kohlhuber, Daniela, Dr. Hermann Heid (1834-1891). Von der Atelierfotografie zur Freilichtaufnahme. Fotogeschichte 101, 2006.

Le Pelley Fonteny, Monique (Dir.), Adolphe et Georges Giraudon. Une bibliotheque photographique, Paris: Somogy, Bourges: Archives départementales du Cher, 2005.

Milani, Giuseppe, Moritz Eduard Lotze un fotografo tedesco nell'ultima Verona Austriaca 1854-1868, Verona: La Grafica, 2010.

O'Brien, Maureen C. (Editor) –Bergstein, Mary (Editor) Image and Enterprise: the Photographs of Adolphe Braun, Thames and Hudson, 2000.

Pohlmann, Ulrich (szerk.), Zwischen Biedermeier und Gründerzeit. Deutschland in frühen Photographien. Stadtmuseum München, 2012/13.

Prodger, Philip, Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution. Oxford University Press; 2009.

Steinhardt, Petra, Going into detail: photography and its use at the Drawing and Design Schools of Amsterdam 1880-1910. Rijksmuseum studies in photography; 7. [Amsterdam]: Rijksmuseum, 2009.

Waller, Susan S., The Invention of the Model: Artists and Models in Paris, 1830-1870. Ashgate Pub Co, 2006.

We have generally used the following works in identification and biography of the photographers (in addition to the above), unless otherwise specified:

Hannavy, John (szerk), Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, New York & Abingdon: Routledge, 2007.

Heidtmann, Frank, Bibliographie der Photographie / Bibliography of Photography. German-language Photographic Publications 1839-1984: Deutschsprachige Publikationen der Jahre 1839-1984. Technik - Theorie - Bild / Technology – Theory – Visual. I-III: Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Photographie. Walter de Gruyter, 1989.

Frank, Hans, Biographisches Lexikon der österreichischen Photographen 1860 bis 1900, Typoskript, o.O. 1980.

Auer, Michel, Encyclopédie internationale des photographes de 1839 à nos jours = Photographers encyclopaedia international 1839 to the present / Michèle Auer, Michel Auer. - Hermance, Switzerland: Editions Camera obscura, c1985.

Internet sites (collections, exhibitions, commercial galleries, Wikipedia entries as of January 2016):

Alinari archives

Giacomo Brogi

Neurdein, Les Frères

Antonio Nessi

Pieter Haatje Pieterszoon Oosterhuis

Giuseppe Incorpora

Pozzi, Pompeo

Luigi Montabone

Achille Léon Quinet,

Diot et Beunon,

Virtual catalogues of photographers from Italy (Giacomo Brogi, Carlo Brogi, Giovanni Crupi, Carlo Naya, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Wilhelm von Plüschow, Roberto Rive, Paolo Salviati, Giorgio Sommer)

Underwood & Underwood

Pietro Poppi e la Fotografia dell’Emilia. Biblioteca d’Arte e di Storia di San Giorgio in Poggiale. 26 novembre 2015 > 28 febbraio 2016

Fondo Poppi:

Stephen Sheehi, The Life and Times of Louis Saboungi. A Nomadological Study of Ottoman Arab Photography, 28 May 2015

Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1914

L'invention d'un regard. Peter Galassi, Michel Frizot et Pierre Apraxine ou dans l'exposition organisée en 1989 par le musée d'Orsay et la Bibliothèque nationale de France,

History of the Nude in Photography in Naked before the Camera at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 27 - September 9, 2012

Musée Goupil, Bordeaux

The inventory for Vienna’s Universal Exposition of 1873

Le Panorama: Exposition universelle 1900.

The Solemnity of Shadows: Juan Laurent's Vision of Spain, November 7 – December 30, 2011. NGA Washington

Catálogo de fotografías de LAURENT

Bibliotheca Digital Espana

Luigi Fiorillo, The Bombardment of #Alexandria in 1882 in photos. The Rare Books and Special collections Digital library of The American University in Cairo

Die Bombardierung Alexandrias durch die englische Flotte. Album Souvenir d'Alexandrie Ruines. [Le bombardement d'Alexandrie du 11 Juillet 1882.] / L[uigi] FIORILLO, Photographe. – Marseille: Sautart & Santamaria [Buchbinderei] o.J. [ca. 1882]. – Gr.8°quer. [50] S. mit 50 mont. Albumin-Silber-Prints 20 x 26 cm (numeriert von 1 bis 50). 10878

Fotografia italiana dell'Ottocento

Luigi Fiorillo, l’avventuroso fotografo di Alessandria d’Egitto, Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso, Genova Dal 23 Ottobre 2014 al 11 Gennaio 2015.

Naef, Weston J. "A Case Study in the Art History of Photography: Famin or Quinet?" in the essay " The Beginnings of Photography as Art in France," After Daguerre: Masterworks of French Photography (1848-1900) from the Bibliothèque Nationale [The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 1980]

Weingarden, Lauren S. The Photographic Subversion: Benjamin, Manet and Art(istic) Reproduction.

McCauley, Anne, Photographs for Industry: The Career of Charles Aubry. The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal: Volume 14/1986. 157 – 172.

Charles Aubry

Krieger archívum

Ignacy (Izaak) Krieger

Literatur von und über Bruno Reiffenstein im Katalog der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Photographen in Wien,

Albertina, Wien:

Introducing Oscar Gustave Rejlander – the father of art photography

History of Photography – woodburytype

lichtmaler. Kunst-Photographie um 1900. Arnoldsche Art Publishers

"Les Photaumnales", MUDO – Musée de l'Oise, 2016

Etudes d'après nature : la collection du peintre et graveur Théophile Chauvel[tx_pids]=594%2C610%2C617%2C604%2C606%2C608%2C631%2C632%2C3286%2C591&tx_ttnews[du_hr]=1%2F10%2F2010&tx_ttnews[tt_cur]=29338&tx_ttnews[backPid]=51&cHash=483d505005

Eric McLuhan, The source of the term, "Global Village"

Papp Júlia a hazai műtárgyfényképezésről és Philpot-ról


Alinari, Giuseppe (1836 – 1890)
Alinari, Leopoldo (1832 – 1865)
Alinari, Romualdo (1830 – 1891)
Anderson, James (1813 – 1877)
Angerer, Ludwig (1827 – 1879)
Angerer,Viktor / Victor (1839 – 1894)
Anschütz, Ottomar (1846 – 1907)
Beszédes Sándor (1830 – 1889)
Bietler Ferenc (1860 – 1884)
Bonfils, Paul Félix (1831-1885)
Bonfils Lydie Cabanis (1837 – 1918)
Bonfils Paul-Felix-Adrien (1861 – 1929)
Braun, Adolphe (1812 – 1877)
Brogi, Giacomo (1822 – 1881)
Brogi, Carlo (1850-1925)
Brusa, Giovanni Battista (működött/active 1860 – 1880)
Crupi, Giovanni (1859 – 1925)
Cuccioni, Tommaso (1790? – 1864)
Divald Károly (1830 – 1897)
Eckert, Georg Maria (1828 – 1903)
Ellinger Ede (1840? ~1920)
Erdélyi Mór (1866 – 1934)
Famin, Constant Alexandre (1827 – 1888)
Fiorillo, Luigi (működött/active 1860 – 1898)
Frankenstein, Michael (1843 – 1918)
Fox, Edward (1833 – 1908)
Geiser, Jean (1848 – 1923)
Glőden, Baron Wilhelm von (1856 – 1931)
Goupil & Cie (1850 – 1884) Goupil, Adolphe (1806-1893)
Gutkaiss, József / Joseph Gutkaiss, (1834 – 1913)
Haack, Carl (működött/ active 1870 – 1900)
Hanfstaengl, Franz (1804 – 1877)
Heid, Hermann, Dr. (1834 – 1891)
Hertel, Carl (1832 – 1906)
Igout, Louis Jean-Baptiste (1837 – 1882?)
Incorpora, Giuseppe, senior (1834 – 1914) Klösz György (1844 – 1913)
Kozmata Ferenc (1846 – 1902)
Krieger, Ignacy (Izaak) (1817/1820 – 1889)
Lampué, Jean Pierre Philippe (1836 – 1924)
Laurent, Jean (Juan) (1816 – 1886)
Lombardi, Paolo (1827 – 1890)
Lotze, Mortiz (1809 – 1890)
Lotze, Emil (1841 – ?)
Löwy, Josef (1835 – 1902)
Marconi, Gaudenzio (1841 – 1885)
Marey, Étienne-Jules (1830 – 1904)
Miethke, Hugo Hermann Werner Ottomar (1834 – 1914)
Mieusement, Séraphin-Médéric (1840 – 1905)
Montabone, Luigi (? – 1877)
Morelli Gusztáv (1848 – 1909)
Moreno García, Mariano (1865 – 1925)
Muybridge, Eadweard (1830 – 1904)
Müllner János (1870 – 1925)
Naya, Carlo (1816 – 1882)
Nessi, Antonio (1834 – 1907)
Neurdein, Jean César Adolphe (1806 – 1867)
Neurdein, Étienne (1832 – 1918)
Neurdein, Louis-Antonin (1846 – 1915?)
Ollivier, Louis (működött/active 1890 – 1910)
Oosterhuis, Pieter Haatje Pieterszoon (1816 – 1885)
Philpot, John Brampton (1812 – 1878)
Photographische Gesellschaft Berlin (1862–)
Poppi, Pietro (1833 – 1914)
Pozzi, Pompeo (1817 – 1880)
Quinet, Achille Léon (1831 – 1900)
Reiffenstein, Bruno (1868 – 1951)
Rejlander, Oscar Gustave (1813 – 1875)
Rive, Roberto (működött/active 1860 – 1890)
Rossi, Giulio (1824 – 1884) Milan, Genova
Rzewuski, Walery (1837 – 1888)
Saboungi, George (1840 – 1910)
Simonyi Antal (1821 – 1892)
Sommer, Giorgio (1834 – 1914)
Strobl, Marianne (működött/active 1894 – 1933)
Taupin, Alphonse (működött/active 1864 – 1875)
Tillot, Charles (1825 – 1895)
Underwood & Underwood ((from 1881-től)
Weinwurm Antal (id.) (1845 – 1925?)
Weinwurm Antal ifj. (1874? – 194..? )
Wilson, George Washingon (1823 – 1893)
Wlha, Josef (1842 – 1918)
Zelesny Károly (1848 – 1913)

(Miklós Peternák)

English translation: Jim Tucker